I never realized how passive I can be until this week. I read an article about passivity vs. passive aggression vs. aggression vs. assertiveness. We use all four of them at times, but there’s one that dominates. I can be assertive with my kids and assertive at work, speaking clearly for my needs when needed, but somehow in matters of love, I’ve lost my voice. Lost my SHOUT!
Where aggression is bullying and passive aggression is manipulative, passivity is saying everything is OK even when it’s not. Assertiveness, however, is simply saying what you mean from a place of kindness and respect, from a place that honours you as much as it honours the other person.
Passivity means avoiding eye contact during conflict, or avoiding conflict altogether. Passivity means I’m not being clear with my wants, my needs and my boundaries. What came out of my therapy session this week was that I need to be more direct. (Hi lady! My lovely therapist reads this blog. It makes our sessions super awesome and I’m grateful she appreciates my writing.)
While out with my sister and girlfriends last week, I was asked to talk about Monsieur Magique. I replied that had they asked me a week prior, I’d be all gooey, but as he hadn’t messaged me in four days, I was annoyed. “Just text him,” they said, but I reminded them that I was still a bit fucked up from my marriage and so one of my biggest fears is that I will like or love the other person more than they love me. That, as a result, I want to be chased a bit. I get that this is scarcity mindset, but bear with me. I also worry, I told them, that I will do more, nurture more than the other person, that I will give so much and lose.
“Just be yourself and treat him the way you want to be treated,” my sister said. “Text him now.” So I did. He was in NYC for work but responded immediately. “Hi, sorry I haven’t been in touch. Crazy busy. How did it go on Monday?”
We chatted a bit about where he was, my big event, etc. He was flying home the next day. When I woke up the next day thinking about him, I said, fuck it, be yourself and texted that I was thinking about him and couldn’t wait to be in his arms again. He texted back later that day, rushing from airports to playdates and offered to call that night after the girls were asleep.
I was prepping for my big speech/talk the next day, but kept glancing at my phone. And much like I’ve been waiting for that postcard to show up in the mailbox, it was there, in the back of my mind, distracting me when I needed to have my head on. (Distraction, like procrastination, is a good reminder that there’s emotional regulation work that needs to be done. Also, SIDEBAR: is romantic love even worth all this mind-fucking? Sigh. Yes, yes it is.) Anyway, at 10:20pm I picked up my phone and begrudgingly texted, “Look I know you’re probably tired and I need to focus, so let’s connect later in the weekend, k?”
He responded a few minutes later. “You don’t want to talk?” Followed by explanation that I didn’t ask for, followed by, “Just call me when you can, even if only for a short time.”
Sigh. Eye roll.
So I did. “Sure, sounds good. Give me five.”
I called him twice, fumbled and hung up, because subconsciously I wanted the feeling of him calling me – like he was SUPPOSED TO. “I don’t know why my phone is doing that…” I answered, playing dumb. We had a lovely chat, he was curious about my event and the talk and how it was all gonna go. He wished me well and sent me off to bed. C’est tout. I was kind of hoping for an additional text the next morning but it never came and the call the night before was enough, I convinced myself. Why am I so NEEDY?
The event was amazing. Exceeded my expectations and we are getting so much better at this. I left feeling proud but exhausted. I walked into the house after a FULL day of emotional thought work with 35 women and was greeted by my boisterous, funny kids. As they were telling me about their day with my sis (“We played RICH all day! We went to the RICH mall in our RICH car and bought stuff. Now we are drinking our RICH water!” LOL), I was changing outfits and trying to coral us out the door to meet friends for dinner, when my phone rang in my hand.
Flashback to when I was feeling giddy one day and put heart emojis around MM’s name in my phone. So when he calls it’s super alarming. It’s like LOVE itself is calling. I was so discombobulated in that moment that I answered, “Hi! Did I just pocket dial you? What’s happening?”
His voice always waits a beat, smooth as silk draped in soft smoke plumes and velvety French, always slightly amused at my Amelia Bedelia sensibilities around these things, “No. What? I’m calling to see how your event went.”
I took a breath and ran to hide in the kitchen – the furthest back place in a house with no privacy. I gave the rundown of the event, told him it was magical. He listened and asked questions and let me go. “Well you sound busy, I just wanted to check in and see how it went and it sounds like it went great. Go enjoy your evening with the kids.”
When I had a moment to gather my thoughts, I sent a text. “Thanks for calling. Sorry for sounding so frazzled. I adore being called and haven’t had a relationship where a man called me on the phone for a long time. It’s so thoughtful and means a lot.” Better?
If I’m being honest, I’ve had at least four therapeutic conversations in the past week about my needing to be more direct. The one with my sister, one with Dr. X during a homeopathy call, one with my business partner Rock n’ Roll Cowgirl during a business call (we talk every day so it’s probably more) and then one with Danny my therapist (there Danny! I gave you a nickname, same as the street you work on, but also because you kept referring to Monsieur Magique as “Daniel“).
I was trying to get to the root of it, wondering if it was from childhood. There’s definitely stuff there. I always felt “not heard” as a child. I lacked agency and autonomy because my darling mother, who was raised by post-genocidal parents and was an immigrant to this country, was a dictator more than a teacher. It’s the reason (I believe) that I need to broadcast every thought on five channels when I am struggling with or celebrating one.
I never truly learned to trust my own voice or decision-making as a kid, because I was always taught I was too trusting, too willing to see the good in everyone. It’s the reason I need to ask the chorus every time I’m noodling through a decision. Because I’ve forgotten how to trust my own intuition in certain situation. I’m getting better at it, it’s a work in progress, but I wanted to write about this today because I think it’s something a lot of people (women in particular) struggle with, and because after all the work I’ve done on mindset and behaviour (which will be a lifelong practice), this is one of the last niggling pieces to work through. So of course it’s THE BIGGEST.
But Danny was quick to remind me that I didn’t need to go that far back into the past to find the source of my inability to speak my truth. That my experience in marriage had a lot of silencing or dismissing of my attempts to ask for what I want or need. Right. She encouraged me to talk to Monsieur Magique about why it’s so hard for me to ask for what I truly want or need.
Dr. X is so good at reminding me to step into myself. To “stop it with the pity party of that last post,” which, hilariously, Danny thought showed that while I accepted the cadence at which I was seeing Monsieur Magique, I quickly determined I needed more effort in between visits with him to keep the connection. Positive! And this is normal, I think, the dance of figuring out how to communicate, how to find middle ground, how to determine how the dance goes. It’s OK to ask the DJ to change the song if you don’t like it. It’s not OK to dance a dance that brings up painful memories. If you catch yourself in Old Habit Energy, you HAVE to say something or change something up, otherwise you’re participating in self-harm.
By Tuesday this week I was annoyed again. We’d been chatting and yet there was no invite for the weekend. It was a rare event in that he typically books the next date at the end of the last one. Invites from friends were coming in, but for some reason, I wasn’t saying yes to anything. Actually I know why I wasn’t saying yes, because my tendency is to fill my calendar and I had mindfully tried to leave gaps for MM time! Am I supposed to channel that book from the 90s The Rules? What was it? If he asks you out later than Wednesday, say you’re busy? Ugh. I don’t want to play games. And yet, it’s all a damn game. Isn’t saying you’re not playing also a way of playing? “Play your cards right,” my mom keeps saying, creating self-doubt, implying that I’ve got something to lose in a man other than in myself.
Dr. X told me to just be direct. So I messaged with, “Are we seeing each other this weekend? I’m starting to make plans.”
“What are your plans? Want to come over Friday night?”
Sure, sounds good.
What I should have said was, “Yes, I haven’t seen you in three weeks. I want to come over and have sex with you Friday night, before we do anything else, not at 2 a.m. And then I want to get a glimpse of what the best of you is. I want to spend the weekend with you and see how our downtime plays, hopefully with a mix of doing fun things and multiple shagathons that result in many orgasms for ME!”
Sure, sounds good.
To be continued…